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Keeping Up with the Joneses A Factor in Solar Installation

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solar-cells-59792_1280You might think that solar roof owners tended to be upper middle class liberals, but a study shows that that might not be the case.  According to a study published by two researchers at Yale and the University of Connecticut, the most important factor influencing a household’s decision to go solar is if other houses in the neighborhood had done so.  You may call it “green envy”, says Prof. Kenneth Gillingham of Yale, study co-author, “where you want to be green so that you can show off your greenness effectively.”

Furthermore, you’d expect that solar installations would be popular in large urban areas, which isn’t the case at all.  Instead, the researchers found “that smaller centers contribute to adoption more than larger urban areas, in a wave-like centrifugal pattern.”  The number of installations of solar PV roof projects increased by almost a half if one was done within half a mile (0.8 m) away within the year.  Also, as the area analyzed  widened, the probability that another solar installation will be done steadily decreased. For example, installations by 0.39 within a mile (1.6 km) radius after the installation of a solar roof in the prior 6 months. As the radius increases to 4 miles (6.4 km), the number of the additional installations was down to 0.12. ” This is consistent with past findings of Prof. Gillingham and a colleague in California, that a new solar roof installation increased the chances of another one being made within the same zip code by 0.78%.

While there was a strong correlation between proximity of prior installations to new ones, there was no such relationship with household income.  Surprisingly, PV roofs were not only found in wealthy communities, but also on poor households, as well as middle-income ones.

Nor did political affiliation influence the decision.  Durham, Connecticut, a small community of  less than 8,000 people, had a lot of solar roofing systems, with 143 units. It is definitely not a liberal community, as it split its votes almost evenly between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, even slightly favoring the GOP candidate.

This all means that if we want to promote solar, it would help to put up a sign saying, ‘This house went solar.’ Gillingham says that this will rub off on the neighbors.  “You want to conserve, and be environmental, but you want to do it in a conspicuous way,” he adds.

So this is one way to make the Joneses green with envy.

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